Celebrating the Humble Honeybee

by Pirjo Raits, Sooke News Mirror – May 25, 2010


The sweet, sticky amber liquid that has been called the nectar of the gods is nature’s original sweetener – but the natural order is crashing. The honey industry is in a crisis situation and there is no solution in sight.

Many beekeepers have lost over 90 per cent of their bees, sending the industry into a tailspin. Add to that the lifting of a 22-year bee quarantine and you have a frail and failing bee industry.

Bees not only produce honey but they are essential for pollination. Without bees, food crops and fruit trees would not produce and much of what we eat would simply not exist.
“One of every three mouthfuls of food we eat bees are responsible for,” says Bob Liptrot of Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery.

Liptrot lost 60 per cent of his bees last year and feels he got off light. In the past three years over 50 billion honeybees have died. A large amount of research into what is called Colony Collapse Disorder is necessary to help.

He said the bee quarantine lifted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands on May 1, makes no sense as they don’t know what is killing the livestock. The quarantine helped keep out pests and pathogens, but did not include the varroa mite, 12 to 15 years ago, that took out hundreds of hives in the space of a few years, resulting in millions of dollars of damage. “It’s like opening the barn door when you have mad cow disease,” said Liptrot.

Vancouver Island has 1,200 independent beekeepers and many of the older beekeepers are worn out, out of funds and are walking away.

He said if the situation was one where Fraser Valley chicken farmers lost 90 per cent of their chickens and had to start over, serious questions would be asked and something would be done.

Liptrot has been a beekeeper for 40 years and he, along with his partner Dana LeComte, opened their honey farm and meadery in 1998.

On May 29, Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery is hosting the Day of the Honeybee in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of honeybees and to raise funds for the Canadian Bee Research Fund.

“Our goal is to increase people’s awareness of what bees do for us and what we can do for them,” says Dana LeComte.

Between 12 and 5 p.m., people of all ages can take part in educational tours of the farm and meadery.

MLA John Horgan will make the proclamation and cut the cake to celebrate the first Honeybee Awareness Day in the Sooke region. There will be experienced beekeepers on hand to answer questions about bees and a demonstration hive will be on display so folks can see a hive in action. Children can take part in face painting by donation, a colouring area and a beekeepers dress-up area.

Inside the tasting room, past vintages and test batches can be sipped with 100 per cent of the price going to research. Tugwell Creek will be donating 10 per cent of all regular tasting room proceeds to the Canadian Bee Research Fund.

To help save the honeybee, there are a couple of things one can do, said Liptrot.

First, and foremost, is to stop using pesticides, especially synthetic nicotine-based ones, which are deadly to insect life. He said it is important to encourage habitat for wild honeybees by planting flowers and bee gardens.

“It is important for the continuing well being of agriculture and food security,” said Liptrot.

The Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery tasting room, at 8750 West Coast Road, is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. For more information go to: www.tugwellcreekfarm.com.